Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fairfax County considering going back to half-day kindergarten

There is some controversy going on here in the Fairfax County. Due to budget a shortfall, they are considering going back to half-day kindergarten again as a way to save $13 million dollars. I am not so good with numbers, but for a school system with an annual budget of $2.2 billion (yes, that's billion with a B), $13 million doesn't seem like a lot. A lot of folks, myself included particularly with a kid expected to enter full day kindergarten in nine months, are encouraging the county to consider other options.

There is an interesting debate. My friends who stay home and whose kids go to preschool a couple of mornings a week, complain that full day kindergarten is too long and it's too hard on the kids. My friends who work think half-day kindergarten is a joke because by the time they get to school, get settled, do an activity and have a snack, it's time to go home -- in many ways a far less academic setting then our kids have been receiving at full-day daycare/preschool. Also, it's a pain in the neck for working parents because you don't find out until August before school starts in the first of September if you will have morning or afternoon kindergarten and you have to make arrangements.

If you support keeping full-day kindergarten, please sign the petition -

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

For the record

* Andy's gone nine days with a dry pull-up/underpants at night. Certainly a record.
* I am bitter at Toys R Us in Fair Lakes. I returned Andy's defective Razor Carvr scooter. They were out and not only refused to sell me the store model, but wouldn't call other stores to see if they had it in stock. "You can order it online," isn't a fair response for a Christmas present for a four year old.
* Bjorn found it at the one in Manassas.
* The kids and I trucked out to find it, for $20 less than what I'd returned. That that Toys R Us.
* Mark is home from college and isn't going back.
* This house has gotten very crowded, very fast. We've gone from four people to six people in two months, including four adults.
* The non-BCS bowl games are a joke. Who cares about the EagleBank bowl with Temple and UCLA? It's just an exhibition game really.
* We are three months away from March Madness. By then, hopefully the adults in my house have some kind of plan.
* Seriously, Blogger? No spell check in the new editor?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Going commando

I'm proud to report that Andy had seven straight days of waking up with a dry pull-up (including Christmas, which is sort of remarkable considering how tired he was!) To celebrate, he could pick his treat. He wanrted his personal manna -- soda. And maybe some candy. I suggested a Slurpee, which I tried to explain is a combination of soda AND candy only icy and you can drink it through a straw. He thought that idea was just crazy.

He also convinced me that he wants to sleep without a pull-up tonight, which I allowed, mostly because I was trying not to laugh after he put on a pair of his sister's Christmas pajamas that are probably 3T. He's showing his belly and the legs are mid-calf.

In other milestones, he's *this* much closer to be able to reliable wipe his own butt after going to the bathroom. Parenthood really does make you cheer for some strange things.

Babies and their guns

Meg loves her baby dolls. I find it so fascinating that she's so into them. We certainly didn't have any laying around from when Andy was littler (Jennifer's doll days are certainly far behind). But sure enough, she gravitated to one at her babysitter's house and wouldn't put it down. This all started over the summer when my parents were visiting. We had just checked out the National Rifle Association's joke of a museum in Fairfax (although the museum itself was puny and not well done or designed, the gift shop was fantastic and resulted in some excellent NRA gifts and t-shirts). My mother decided Meg's first baby should be named Daisy, after the Daisy bb-gun, which was the first commercial air gun (for children, naturally.)

Naming all her subsequent dolls after guns was a really fun inside joke for the family. So we now have:

Callie (short for calibre)
Remy (short for Remington)
Winnie (for Winchester)
Spider (well, that's not a weapon, Andy was just fascinated by spiders around Halloween and it stuck)

And now that she's amassing quite a collection of dolls, I've run out of ideas for names. We've thought about Glock, but that just seems to obvious (and frankly not that fun to say), Bullet, 30-06, Rifle, Bolt -- but really, nothing clever is coming to mind. I need help! Suggest your favorite weapon-related baby doll name. (Come on, it's not that subversive.)

 Meg pushing one of her new Christmas dollies in the stroller she got from Santa (who goes by Grandmother).

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Yes, I really do know how to use my oven

I would like the record to reflect that I made homemade cookies this Christmas. The kids helped by making it more of a mess than it would have been already as well as casually throwing some sprinkles and icing on the cookies. They also managed to use the cookie cutters a little while working to eat as much cookie dough as possible. We did cookies a few weeks ago and clearly the novelty has worn off. We did make a lot of them though and we (I) put them into treat bags to give to our neighbors as holiday presents. Mark was kind enough to drop them off, much appreciated since the sidewalks were still pretty narrow and icy.

The nice thing about baking with kids is I can play off my own baking imperfections on them. "Isn't the messy icing and sprinkles a hoot! Meg helped!" I find I do that with other things, too, like if we get out somewhere and I realize an outfit is totally the wrong colors or the pants are on backwards, "Isn't that cute? He dressed himself!" Certainly there are plenty of times when they do insist on wearing shorts over sweatpants, but when it's my fault, I'm more than happy to blame them. If that's not stellar parenting, I'm not sure what is.

Friday, December 25, 2009


Wow, we must have been good this year because the Jul Tompte and Santa were both very good to us all. The kids all have more toys than they possibly need, which is fantastic. Meg got an assortment of babies and their accoutrements and spent much of the morning taking them from the stroller to the baby pack and play to the baby swing and back again. Sometimes you could even tell what she was saying. She also got a lot of clothes, which is great for me, including some adorable winter type outfits and shoes. Exactly what she needed. Andy also got clothes and is to an age where he even knows to mutter, "Aw, more clothes," just like every other kid under the age of 18 in America. Those of us over 18 got a lot of clothes, but those were considered very good things. The only casualty thus far is the Razor scooter Bjorn got Andy from Toys 'R Us. It's got some problem with the spring so Bjorn couldn't open it and ended up jabbing himself in the cuticle with a screwdriver. Indeed, suboptimal. Both kids also got a lot of books that I look forward to reading with them. Bjorn also got a lot of books that I intend to read. Perhaps in return I'll even let him eat some of the bread I will make with my bread maker that my mom got me that I'm totally jazzed to try out. I had one right after college that I used for years until it finally broke. My biggest present is an attic ladder that Bjorn's having installed tomorrow. Yes, kids, that's what happens when you get old. You want home improvements instead of toys, but I am personally thrilled about it.

It was great this year having all four kids in the same house over Christmas -- no waiting for someone to drive over, no competition for another Christmas. Just us at our house. I really love it. Course, I'm not sure how it would be with all six of us living here permanently, but for a few weeks it's pretty great.

Edited to add: Sorry the pictures are all out order. This new Blogger photo editor is a lot more flexible, but it's so flexible it was moving pictures around in a way I wasn't sure how to get them back without deleting them all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snowpocalypse, part 4

Meanwhile, I would like to personally commend the Washington Post delivery folks. Despite blinding snow on Saturday, two feet on the ground Sunday and ice on Monday, our paper arrived each day. On Sunday, we looked for it and didn't see it initially, but a little later as I continued to dig the trough out to the curb, there it was, an orange plastic beacon waiting for me amidst the white. Well done, my friends, well done.

And to guarantee we've seen our last snow of the season, today I went to the supremely awesome Unique Thrift Store and bought an Oshkosh snowsuit for Meg for less than $10.

I have also now gone to the updated Blogger format which mysteriously has taken away my spell check feature. Sure, it's easier to insert bullets, as if I'd need that, but spell check? That's for sissies.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snowpocalypse, part 3

It turns out three straight days in the house with no where to go and no one to look at except ourselves is the limit. On Saturday, we were all set. I had crafts, we had cookies to bake. On Sunday, we did some digging out, some sledding, some cleaning with good cooperation by all. By today, I'm ready to smother everyone and send all the presents back to where they came from.

The adults are all snippy, passive aggressive and oversensitive. The little kids are whiney and refusing to do any of their regularly scheduled activities, like eating without throwing huge fits or napping/resting at their regularly appointed schedules. I am cranky and irritated. And to think that starting Thursday we have a whole 10 days of break together! No school, no work, just six people in a house together with two feet of snow on all the ground! Yay! For some reason, Little Women is no my mind. Weren't they stuck in the house for months? Back in the day with no television or Internet? Clearly they were better people.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snowpocalypse 2009, part 2

Today was day three of the worst winter storm in Washington ever TM. It's and really been remarkable. The plows hit the main road, Commonwealth, earlier in the day. By early afternoon, we saw our first plow on Pommeroy. It was just after dark that a plow hit our street. Bjorn and the kids dug out our driveway and the cars. Not that it matters. Turns out the federal government shut down for tomorrow.

That means both Bjorn and I should have our offices closed. The kids' schools will also likely be closed. Fairfax County even announced it's shutting down tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday and closing now for winter break. This is all pretty remarkable. The feds close like once every third year. I've never heard of Fairfax County closing for three days in a row in advance with no more precipitation expected. Even more remarkable, we've done a good job eating through the food in the house.

Now don't get me wrong, it's not like we're going to starve or anything crazy, but we've gone through the staples like spaghetti, bagels, cheese, bananas and frozen pizza. There is still macaroni and cheese and some frozen assorted chicken nuggets and fish sticks, but in general, we're working through the cupboard. I suppose that's what happens with four adults, including a college-aged boy, and two pre-schoolers in the house. I do hope to finally get out of the neighborhood tomorrow.

I have really, really loved the snow event and loved the family time, but after three straight days of making three meals a day plus snacks for six, doing dishes, sweeping the floor, digging with the snow shovel and wiping up melted snow off the kitchen floor, it would be nice for a change of scenery. Fortunately, the kids are at such an age where the little ones can play together a little. It's sure nice to be the only source of entertainment for them. Well, me and Noggin.

This is from yesterday afternoon at the height of the storm. Check out how bad the visibility is. Good thing all the airports were closed.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snowpocalypse 2009

As you have probably heard, the East Coast got a serious snow storm this weekend. They keep throwing things around like "storm of the century" and "worst snow in December ever" on the local news, which have abandoned their regular programming to show us pictures of the snow all day. I, for one, have loved it. This is early in the day, like 11 a.m. after it started snowing last night about 9 p.m. There is a lot of snow here, maybe 6-7 inches at this point.

Here we are starting to dig out. See the trough we're digging and the snow on the roof line.

Andy with his shovel that my dad got him last time he was here. Turns out it was a perfect purchase. Thanks, Dad! Note, Andy is wearing his Cowboys hat.

I was ready for a snow day with crafts. I had the kids (including Jennifer) painting Christmas ornaments. Meg was much more interested in dipping the paint brushes into water and then smearing Jennifer's ornaments.

Here are Jennifer's artwork. Meg decided Santa looked better looking like he got in a knife fight in prison. We were thinking maybe Santa and Mr. Gingerbread Man got into an argument.

This is much later in the day, around 4 p.m. By then, there was at least 10 inches, probably more like 12-14. For a town that shuts down on 3-4 inches, this is pretty remarkable.

This is about 5 p.m. Look how deep the trough on the driveway is now.

Look how magical the house looks, with the foot of snow on the roof line, the dusk and the Christmas lights.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Remind me not to do this again

Andy's school had a field trip to Sesame Street Live at the Patriot Center. His teachers sent something home asking for the $10 for his ticket and offering that parents and other children could come along if they wanted to buy tickets as well. It was scheduled for a Friday so I ordered tickets for Andy, me and Meg. I offered to chaperon, but not really chaperon since I would have Meg with me.

Andy was sort of weird about the whole thing, mostly because he doesn't like Sesame Street. So while he liked the idea of going on the field trip, he really wasn't psyched about the show.

We showed up today and it was great. He was proud to show off his little sister and we hung out for an hour or so before leaving to catch the bus for the mile drive from his school to the venue. I followed along in my car since I was illegally parked. Andy wasn't thrilled about that, but he was fine once I met up with him.

Once we got to our seats, Andy started whining that he was hungry. The teachers made it really clear that they don't like the chaperons getting food for just one kid so I said no. He whined some more. He then proceeded to whine about being hungry or thirsty for the entire hour and a hour show (including 15 minute intermission). It was pretty miserable, probably for both of us. Afterwards, he was going to ride back with his class and I was going to leave. Then the real whining and crying started. His teachers (including the adorable college coeds that help out in during field trips) tried to distract him and console him, but he was mad. He wanted to leave with me, he wanted a hot dog, he wanted me to stay. I left and prompted called my older sister asking her to remind me never to do this again.

His teachers told Bjorn in the afternoon that he recovered eventually and had a good day, but that it took him a while, longer than usual. I thought about it and I think Andy is one of those kids that is fine if his parents aren't there or are in the sidelines, but as soon as we're on the field, he freaks. It's like when I coached his soccer team. He was totally hanging on me and whining when I was on the field, but if I wasn't part of the action, he could forget about me and was fine.

In other news, they're calling for 16-20 inches of snow here today. That's extremely unusual for Washington and even more unusual for December. It might be a white Christmas after all.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Story that he will be furious I told later

There are two main kinds of ants you'll run into in Texas. The small ones are fire ants and the big ones are carpenter ants. The little ones are mean and feisty. If they sting you, it hurts almost as bad as getting stung by a bee. Worse, it's easy to step into an ant pile and get stung a dozen times before you figure out what's what. The carpenter ants are big suckers. They are probably an eighth of an inch long. They also travel in big ant piles, but they're fun to watch because they so clearly carry pieces of food and earth that are ten times their size.

Down at the ranch, Dad, Andy and I were down by the Colorado River throwing rocks and such into the water. On our way back, Andy was clearly tired and slow moving. It didn't help that he stepped into a pile of fire ants and we had to spend time picking them off his clothes and socks. Dad picked him up and started carrying him on his shoulders as we walked back to the house.

"Ow, ow! My penis hurts!" Andy shouted.
"What's wrong? It is stuck?" I asked calmly, figuring that his pants had ridden up. Bjorn taught him that it's stuck when he pants given him a wedgie.
"No! Ants! It hurts!" he said. By now my dad has put him on the ground.
"It's okay. We'll fix it," I said. "Let's pull your pants down and readjust."
"No! It hurts! It's biting me!"
So we quickly pull his pants down. Sure enough, there on the tip of his penis is a huge carpenter ant. I must say, that ant did look pretty darn enormous next to the boy parts of a four year old.

He was fairly traumatized by the whole thing, as Bjorn and my dad understood. We did call and get a ride back to the house rather than trying to walk. Fortunately, it was a carpenter ant so it was a bite vs. a real sting. I must say I am proud of the adults for not falling over laughing at the whole thing.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Andy has a new obsession -- the Magic School Bus. It's a kids show narrated by Lily Tomlin and the kids go on all these adventures and learn about stuff, like the Earth, molecules, computer processors. It's fairly well done and not as annoying as some shows (although not as clever as our favorite Phineas and Ferb). Andy wakes up and wants to watch the Magic School Bus. He wants to watch it in the car on the DVD player (assuming the library has one he wants to watch), he wants to watch it after bath and he wants to read the books that go with it. When I asked him about what we should write to Santa about, he said he wanted Magic School Bus DVDs. That was all, no bike, no scooter (which I want to get him), not markers, just more Magic School Bus.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Overheard at our house yesterday:

Andy: "Mommy, you not letting me watch the Magic School Bus just BROKE MY HEART."

Saturday, December 05, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I knew it would be crappy weather today so we made sugar cookies. We weren't paying attention for a few minutes and came in to find Meg was pouring out the sprinkles on the table.
We got four inches of wet snow today. It was wet, but it snowed all day off and on. The kids loved it.

I talked Bjorn into getting an artificial Christmas tree for the first time. It's really nice so far. I got the kids to pose for me. Why does Meg look like she just stepped out of the 1920s with that hair and expression?

Thanksgiving pictures continued

Dad took Andy down to the river to shoot a gun, a .22 calibre pump action, for the first time. Andy did fine, but he isn't quite ready. He took it seriously enough, but his arm strength wasn't quite enough to hold it on his own and he lost interest in it (and the ear protection pretty quickly). I'm glad we did it though.
Mark, on the other hand...Does this city kid from suburban Washington, D.C., look comfortable in the country with a gun or what?

Grandmother and her baby bundle.

I stole Elizabeth's sunglasses. Meg stole them from me.

Megan and Andy down by the river. All four kids had a blast throwing rocks, finding freshwater shells, building dams and collecting wood at the river. It was awesome.

Elizabeth rocking the four-wheeler.

The requisite picture of all four kids in the bathtub. Elizabeth and I intend to document Andy and Megan in the bath together until they're 18. What, is that weird?


I liked this picture -- Mary and Andy with Kieran followed by my dad with Megan on his shoulders.
Meg catching a ride with Bjorn as we walked to the take-out spot on the Colorado River.

Mary and Emma sitting in the boat. Yes, it's broken and yes, it's out of the water, but it's a nice place to rest down by the take-in spot on the river.

A self-portrait of Mark with the fire and the sunset in the background.

Margaret and Megan really hit it off at the end. Here they are on the chair in Mom's living room.

Here are all four grandchildren -- Megan, Andy, Emma and Margaret in their matching pajamas.
Another picture we tried to get of all four kids in matching Christmas pajamas. Emma, however, wished to have nothing to be done with it.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


We are back. I, for one, am exhausted. I have a feeling my mother as uber hostess for many is beat as well.

It was so fantastic seeing my parents, my sisters and my adorable five and 2 1/2-year-old nieces. Andy and Margaret had the times of their lives. I loved watching that. It all made me wistful that we don't live closer. It is always hard traveling for the holidays and then trying to be a good house guest when my kids insist on smearing yogurt on the kitchen floor and then while I'm trying to triage that situation, the other one starts eating her yogurt with a knife. Oh, and let's not forget Meg forgot how to sleep while we were there. No fool, she sensed our weakness and inability to let her cry and ended up in bed with us probably every night at least for a bit before waking up before six FOR THE DAY. Of course, today -- our last morning -- Mom had to wake her up in order to leave for the airport to catch a flight that was then delayed nearly three hours. Fortunately both kids were angels on the plane, once Andy got down throwing a 30 minute fit that his new favorite cat Meowey was in our checked luggage. This after I asked the kid before I checked it if he was okay with that. Poor kid is practically luggage himself after so much excitement the past week. I, too, and worn out.

I also look forward to the years to come with the kids are easier to travel with and easier to send out of the room to play games with each other while we catch up and play bridge.

There are lots of great pictures to share, but right now I'm just too damn tired. I am planning to watch a little Tivo BY MYSELF IN MY OWN ROOM and then go to bed. I am crazy like that.